How we teach Phonics
Subject Lead: Carly Wilkinson
Twyford St Mary’s has a comprehensive, progressive programme for Phonics teaching. This programme follows progression documents created by the school’s expert KS1 staff using appropriate elements of Letters and Sounds and Bug Club phonics. Phonics teaching starts at the very beginning of children’s learning journey at Twyford St Mary’s. Our continuous provision in EYFS is carefully designed to allow the children to ‘bump into’ various sounds between discrete sessions which helps to embed and consolidate key teaching. We always ensure that we revisit prior phonics learning so it can then be successfully built upon to help our children become confident, fluent readers and then spellers.
The progression follows Letters and Sounds but at a pace decided by the school. We teach phonics four times a week in KS1 using the Revisit, Teach, Practice, Apply approach. Some of our pupils also benefit from targeted phonics interventions in KS2 depending on their learning needs.
The children begin by learning singular letters and sounds like t, p, a, and s, they can start to build up the words: “tap”, “taps”, “pat”, “pats” and “sat”. This then builds over time; more letters and sounds are added, and more words can then be explored. The children then learn about digraphs and trigraphs as they progress through the phonics programme. Every week, the children will also learn ‘tricky words’ which do not follow specific sound patterns they have been taught, but occur frequently in texts they will read or will be words they will frequently use in writing (for example, the, and).
What is Phonics?
Phonics is a method used to teach children how to read and write. It helps children hear, identify, and use different sounds that can then help them to distinguish one word from another. Written language is like a code, so knowing the sounds of individual letters – and how those letters sound when they’re combined – helps children decode words as they read. Teaching children to blend the sounds of letters together helps them decode unfamiliar or unknown words by sounding them out.
Understanding phonics helps children know which letters to use when they are spelling words. For example, the sound /k/ can be spelled as c, k, ck or ch.
Some helpful Phonics terms
- Phoneme – a unit of sound
- Grapheme – the groups of letters used to represent the sound (e.g. the sound /k/ could be written as c, k, ch or ck)
- Digraph – a sound formed by 2 letters (e.g. ow)
- Trigraph – a sound formed by 3 letters (e.g. igh)
- Blending – blending is a method used to help children learn to read by combining different sounds, also known as phonemes, to form words.
- Segmenting – segmenting involves identifying the individual sounds (phonemes) in a word to break down the word.
- Pure sounds – the pronunciation of each letter sound clearly and distinctly without adding additional sounds to the end. For instance, the /p/ sound is pronounced as ‘p’ and not ‘puh.’
How Phonics supports Reading and Writing
Blending – Blending is a method used to help children learn to read by combining different sounds, also known as phonemes, to form words. Blending sounds together teaches learners how words are sounded out, which will help them to decode long and unfamiliar words when they’re reading. This supports reading fluency which is a vital foundation that can then be built upon by teaching comprehension skills (see our Reading VIPERS on the Reading page).
Segmenting – Segmenting involves identifying the individual sounds (phonemes) in a word to break down the word. This can be helpful during writing, especially when the pupil is having a go at spelling an unfamiliar word.
The Twyford St Mary’s Phonics expert:
- Can orally blend and segment taught sounds and can identify how many sounds are in a word.
- Knows phoneme-grapheme correspondence.
- Can have a go at spelling or reading unfamiliar words – if it’s phonetically plausible – and it doesn’t need to be right first time!
- Can form the letters when writing graphemes.
- Can read and write taught tricky words, and even tell us which part of the word makes it tricky!
- Can identify spelling patterns and rhyme.
- Knows alternative sounds for different graphemes (in Year 1 and 2).
- Can read words with suffixes and use suffixes in writing to change the meaning of words (in Year 2 and above).
Our approach to Phonics for SEND learners
Phonics in KS1 is naturally inclusive for pupils with SEND as it is very active and visual. Additionally, our revisit, teach, practice, apply approach is also excellent for supporting working memory. Targeted support is put in place for any children who may be struggling to embed certain sounds (for example, we might make specific lessons available on Bug Club). KS2 pupils with SEND, who may not have embedded key phonics learning, may also need to have targeted phonics interventions to help support their reading and spelling learning.
- Books to align with the sounds taught (Bug Club)
- Teacher-made and Bug Club interactive flipcharts
- Interactive games (Phonics Play/Bug Club)
- Phonics sound mats
- Sound buttons
- Flashcards every session
- Multi-sensory tools in EYFS – phonics activity always within continuous provision (in the sand pit, play dough, in the water tray, usually linked to letter formation), magnetic letters
- Extra resources for lower KS2 for targeted phonics teaching- Little Gem books and internal resources through games and multi-sensory approaches based on need.